Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Mugwort is a common plant that is found all over the world. There are many different varieties, but this post will focus on the one most prevalent in our Mid-Atlantic region–artemisia vulgaris. The species name vulgaris speaks to how common this plant is. In fact, it is quite invasive, but every weed has a virtue.

Family: Asteraceae

Names: croneswort, moonwort

Parts Used: aerial parts

Energetics: bitter, aromatic, warming

Actions: bitter tonic, carminative, nervine, emmenagogue

Uses:  Mugwort is the herb that is most often used in moxabustion. Internally it is used to counter depression and rheumatism. Mugwort will stimulate menses when delayed, stagnant or absent.  Mugwort is also known to promote highly vivid dreaming. For dream support, you can burn mugwort as a smudge before bed or put some under your pillow. As a bitter tonic, mugwort stimulates digestive secretion, including the synthesis and release of bile. It can be used to prevent and diminish gallstones. With an affinity for the liver, mugwort is cooling and antioxidant to the liver, enhancing hepatocyte function. It can improve nearly all digestive issues, from acid reflux to constipation, when used regularly and in small doses (3-10 drops of tincture).

IndicationsStagnant digestion, irregular menstruation, menstrual cramps or pain, depression, rheumatism, sciatica, gout, tension, colds, bronchitis, and other cold or damp conditions.

Fun Facts: The name mugwort refers to the fact that mugwort was used in brewing beer before hops gained the monopoly on bittering agents. The genus name of Artemisia is associated with the goddess Artemis. It’s correspondence to Artemis is reflected in her silvery foliage that glows under the moon, in her action on menses, as well as in her spiritually therapeutic powers to help heal aspects of the wounded female, including marks of abuse from the astral body.

Contraindications: not recommended during pregnancy. It is not a nourishing or tonic herb so prolonged use and/or high doses are not recommended.

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease**

St. John’s Wort

(Hypericum perforatum)

An herb that begs to be recognized this time of year is St. John’s Wort. It’s named after St. John the Baptist because it blooms around St. John’s Day. Some herbalists prefer to call this plant St. Joan’s Wort after Joan of Arc. Either way, the association with the sun and with fire is insinuated in the name and its medicine is sometimes called “sunshine in a bottle.”

Family: Hypericaceae

Names: St. John’s Wort, St. Joan’s Wort

Parts Used: flowering tops

Energetics: slightly sweet, mildly bitter, somewhat astringent, cooling

Actions: Nervine, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, analgesic, anti-viral, antiseptic, vulnerary

Indications: St. John’s’/Joan’s wort has a special relationship with the sun. It is one of the plants that help to bring sunshine to the dark places, illuminating the shadows of the body and mind. It has a long history of treating melancholy and gloominess (mild to moderate depression), as well as anxiety, nightmares and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It was considered a remedy for possession by evil spirits in Medieval times, which is sometimes interpreted as referring to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, phobias and nervous breakdown.

It also has an affinity for preventing and healing all degrees of burns. Some sources caution that St. John’s Wort taken internally may cause photo-sensitivity and increase one’s susceptibility to sunburn, but others say that only applies to the capsules and standardized extracts, and that whole plant preparations like tinctures do not produce that effect. Susun Weed uses the infused oil as a sun-protectant for the skin. I use it as a remedy for both sunburn and regular burns from the oven. It reduces pain and redness from the skin very quickly, and I find that only 4-5 applications after a minor burn is needed to resolve all pain & redness, prevent peeling, blisters and scarring.

St. John’s Wort is considered cooling and can help to balance our internal fires when they get too intense. The fire element governs our sense of self worth, our abilities to transform food, and to make decisions. When our fire element is overactive, it can lead to irritability, anger and a desire to control everything. This type of chronic stress fries the nervous system, creates inflammation in the body, and makes us more susceptible to injury. St. John’s wort can ease inflammation, strengthen the nerves, decongest the liver, strengthen our gut-level instincts and heal our aches and pains when we overdo it or accidentally injure ourselves because we were too hasty.

St. John’s wort is wonderful remedy for wound-healing as it relieves pain, helps with tissue repair, and strengthens the integrity & elasticity of the capillaries, arteries & veins.

As an antiviral, St. John’s Wort has been shown to be useful in countering viruses such as HIV, herpes, measles, hepatitis A & B, and influenza.

It is overall a widely applicable plant and an indispensable part of any medicine cabinet, for its abilities to cheer you up, ease your aches & pains, strengthen the nerves, heal burns and counter infection.

External Uses: for wounds, burns, blisters, rashes, abrasions, bed-sores, bruises, boils & stings. It also makes a great massage oil for nerve pain, muscle spasm, stiffness & sprains. Its antiviral properties do pass through the skin and can be useful in cases of shingles.

St. John’s Wort should not be taken concurrently with prescription anti-depressants. Because St. John’s wort is such a potent liver cleanser, it is also contraindicated for any medications that are metabolized via the CYP-450 pathway in the liver. It will cause your body to eliminate these drugs much more quickly. Please do your due diligence to make sure that St. John’s Wort does not interact with any of your medications before taking this herb.

This information is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

Rose Petal

(Rosa spp.)

Dubbed the “Queen of Flowers,” Rose has been a favored plant throughout human history. It has been cultivated for thousands of years, and has always been associated with love, sensuality and beauty. This materia medica applies to both wild & cultivated roses.

Family: Rosaceae

Names: Rosa centifolia, gallica, and damascena are the most common varieties used medicinally)

Parts Used: Flower & Hip

Energetics: aromatic, slightly bitter, astringent, cooling, drying

Actions: Nervine, carminative (aromatic), emmenagogue, aphrodisiac, antibacterial, antiseptic, nervine, anti-inflammatory, cardio tonic, vulnerary (heals tissue)

Properties: astringent, soothing, calming, uplifting, uplifts spirits, disperses melancholy, eases anxiety & tension, clear heat and toxins, decongestant to female reproductive system, nourishing to the heart & circulatory system.

Indications: as an aphrodisiac, rose teaches us to walk the line between fierceness & vulnerability. It softens our walls and encourages us to be open, while at the same time reinforcing personal boundaries. Rose has a profound opening effect on the heart and is a lovely salve for broken hearts as well as those who have been the victim of violence, sexual abuse or betrayal. Rose teaches self love and helps us to see the inherent beauty in ourselves & our surroundings.

As an astringent, rose petal tea can be used as a gargle for sore throats (especially when combined with rose-infused honey). It dries clear mucus discharges, relieves runny nose, brings down a fever and enhances immunity by clearing heat and toxins. The cooling, astringent petals are also helpful for inflammation in the digestive tract (IBS, infection, leaky gut).

As a cardiovascular tonic, rose can soothe a racing heart and strengthen the blood vessels, improving elasticity, healing microwounds & combating oxidative stress.

Its aromatic and dispersive properties make it useful in uterine congestion manifesting as pain, cramping and heavy periods. Irregular menstruation caused by blood stagnation. And it improves mood and may balance out mood swings associated with PMS (another sign of stagnation). Rose petal tincture is my favorite remedy for menstrual cramps.

And, its cooling, anti-inflammatory properties can be applied to headaches due to stress/high blood pressure with a pounding quality.

External Uses: compress for sore eyes, diluted rose petal-infused vinegar is amazing for sunburns, a liniment of the petals is good for sore muscles, esspecially in Pitta types, and for dislocate discs with swelling. A simple spit poultice is soothing for bug bites & scratches. A salve or paste made of powdered petals is useful for itching rashes and inflamed skin.

Avoid rose oil internally if you have gallstones. Because of its astringent nature, long-term use of rose may exacerbate constipation and dryness.

This information is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.


(Aralia nudicaulis)

A native woodland species found throughout Appalachia, this plant is not related to the tropical Sarsaparilla most people are familiar with, but it has many overlapping uses.

Description: The Aralia genus also contains Spikenard (Aralia racemosa), another Appalachian plant, and wild sarsaparilla is sometimes referred to as “little spikenard.” They are in the same family as ginseng, and like ginseng, the Aralias are normalizing to the metabolism and strengthening to the adrenals. Jamaican Sarsaparilla (Smilax regeii) is an entirely different plant that grows as a thorny vine in the Caribbean and Central America. Jamaican sarsaparilla and the smilax genus made its way into the European materia medica as a treatment for syphyllis and quickly became known for its blood-cleansing properties. To add to the confusion between these species, we do have another native woodland plant that grows around here called Greenbrier (Smilax rotundifolia), that is related to this tropical sarsaparilla vine. Greenbrier is also used as a more direct substitute for true sarsaparilla. In this materia medica, we’ll be talking about the wild sarsaparilla of Appalachia (Aralia nudicaulis).

Actions: pectoral, diuretic, diaphoretic, alterative, adaptogen, vulnerary, stimulant

Parts Used: Root

Energetics: Cooling, Sweet, Dispersive

Uses: As an alterative, wild sarsaparilla has similar properties to “true sarsaparilla” (Smilax regeii) and both have been used to treat rheumatism, syphilis, inflammations of the skin, hormonal dysregulation, and diseases of the blood. Alteratives are often thought of as “blood-cleansers”, but this is a very vague way of understanding their action. As blood medicine, wild sarsaparilla is particularly suited for conditions where circulation is impeded, resulting in the accumulation of wastes. A syrup from the root can be useful for an irritating, mucus-producing cough or tuberculosis. Externally, fomentations of the root are useful for ringworm. As an adaptogen, wild sarsaparilla is balancing to states of sympathetic excess, when the fight-or-flight response is in constant alert.

Indications: hormonal excess, acne, sluggish cellular metabolism, gout, syphilis, blood infections/toxicity, rheumatism & inflammatory joint conditions, boggy lungs with irritation & excess mucus, skin eruptions, ringworm.

Preparations: Decoction, tincture, syrup, fomentation

Cautions: no side effects or drug interactions found.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.


(Viola odorata)

A common herb found in backyards, gardens, fields and forests, this lowly plant is often overlooked as medicinal, but don’t let its small stature or quiet disposition deceive you. It’s full of nutrients and makes a lovely spring potherb, tea, and is a soothing, anti-inflammatory & detoxifying tonic.

Actions: vulnerary, lymphatic, alterative, emollient, expectorant, mild diuretic & mild laxative

Parts Used: Leaf & Flower

Energetics: cooling, moistening

Uses: Vioilet flowers are rich in vitamin C and the leaves are packed with Vitamin A (carotene). The leaves affect the nerves, lungs, immune & reproductive systems, with a special affinity for the breasts. Violet supports lymphatic circulation and mildly enhances bowel, liver & kidney function. Violet has a long history of being used in cancer treatment, in combination with other therapies. On its own, violet has been known to help dissolve tumors, cysts and some cancers, especially in the breasts. It essentially dissolves hard masses while relieving congestion of the lymphatic glands.

Indications: Breast congestion, cystic breasts, lymphatic congestion, dry or spasmodic cough, red, itchy & inflamed skin conditions. Hippocrates recommended violet for headaches, hangovers, bad eyesight, and excess of bile. Pliny said they induced sleep, strengthened the heart muscle & calmed anger. They have been used in Arabic medicine for constipation, tonsillitis and insomnia.

Preparations: eat the leaves and flowers in a spring salad, use as an infused oil for breast massage. as a salve or poultice for topical relief of irritations to the skin, as an infusion for a nourishing & detoxifying tonic, as a tincture for its alterative action, or as a syrup for coughs.

Cautions: no side effects or drug interactions found.

Dose: Tincture: 1-2 ml 3 x a day; as an infusion, use 1 cup of dried herb to 1 quart water. Steep 4-8 hours, then strain. Drink 1-3 cups a day.

Homeopathic Use: for breathlessness & spasmodic coughs, whooping cough and breathing problems associated with anxiety. It is also for headaches with burning of the forehead & pain above the eyebrows and vertigo. A Violet person easily gets tense & over-excited. It particularly suits thin, nervous girls.

Flower Essence: for profound shyness; suited for people who are delicate, sensitive and timid. Violet engenders a sense of warmth & openness.

Folklore: Violet has been grown commercially since Greek times. The blooms were sold in Athenian street markets. The Romans adored the flowers and used them to adorn the heads of poets, civic leaders and other officials. Both cultures wore garlands of violet to prevent drunkenness. It was also used in love potions.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.


(Stellaria media)

Ahhh, Chickweed. It’s such a refreshing sight this time of year. Its clumping, succulent carpets of bright green scream fresh new life after winter. It might be my favorite wild edible plant, partly because of its abundant accessibility, and partly because my body is so excited for a bite of fresh wild green nourishment this time of year. You can experience the full vitality of eating fresh greens by getting on your hands and knees, and taking a bite directly from the earth as if you were a rabbit:) It’s such a different sensation than eating even the freshest greens from the grocery store or farmers market. And this is what I unabashedly do when I first encounter this plant each year. I bow down and give thanks for this delicious & welcome gift.

Tastes/Energetics: cooling & moistening

Parts Used: aerial parts

Actions: nutritive, antiscorbutic, anti-pyretic, demulcent, emollient, vulnerary, pectoral, diuretic

Uses:  Chickweed is primarily used either internally as a nutritive herb with cooling and detoxifying properties, or externally as a soothing remedy for cuts, itching, or irritation. Chickweed contains saponins, soap-like plant chemicals that emulsify and increase permeability of cellular membranes, thus, increasing the absorption of nutrients, promoting the excretion of metabolic waste, dissolving phlegm, neutralizing toxins, and even weakening bacterial cell walls, rendering them more vulnerable. Chickweed also has a reputation for dissolving cysts, especially ovarian cysts, and some wise country women say it helps with weight loss (soap dissolves fat). Chickweed is very soothing to the bladder & kidneys and is used as a cooling diuretic for cystitis.

Indications: signs of heat (fever, infection, coughs with yellow, concentrated mucus, inflammations, any condition ending with “itis”), chronic UTIs, internal or external wounds (to draw out splinters or infection, reduce swelling & inflammation), rashes (including chickenpox, measels, diaper rash, bug bites, or poison ivy), pink eye (as a wash), internally to support weight loss or dissolution of cysts.

Preparations: Internally as a tea, tincture, or fresh plant. Externally as a poultice, salve, or wash.

Cautions: None cited in literature.

Dose: Tea: use 2 tsp of dried herb to cup of water: drink 3 ccups a day. Tincture: 60-100 drops (3-5 ml) three to four times a day.
Chickweed Pesto Recipe
2 cups chickweed
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
I TBSP lemon juice
3-4 oz hard cheese
3-4 oz nuts or seedsPlace chickweed, nuts & garlic in a food processor and blend until finely minced. Add the cheese, oil & lemon juice and process until blended. Transfer to a small bowl or tupperware & store in the refrigerator.Identification: Chickweed is out now, thanks to the warm weather & rain. You can often even find it growing under the snow. If you wish to harvest, remember to find a place away from the roadside & chemical sprays, and to harvest no more than 1/3 of what you find. I highly recommend that you get a field guide to help you with identification. It can be difficult early in the season, before the plant is in bloom. Here are some hints:The leaves of chickweed are small, ovate, oppositely arranged, and a little fuzzy. The leaves and stems have an almost succulent quality. This becomes more apparent as the plant matures. The stems are a little hairy, and if you look closely at the nodes, you’ll notice that these hairs change direction around each node. The flowers are also tiny and white in color. They appear to have 10 petals, when in reality they are 5 petals, each one deeply cut into 2 lobes. Happy Hunting!

*These statements have not been approved by the FDA. The information contained here is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.


(Turnera diffusa)

An aromatic herb (in the mint family) native to Central America.  The Aztecs used the leaves as a sexual tonic and stimulant and regarded it as the second most important herb for bestowing vitality, after chocolate. Traditionally the fragrant leaves were brewed as a tea and sweetened with honey to stimulate lovemaking.

Tastes/Energetics: aromatic, warming, slightly stimulating, but also relaxing

Parts Used: leaves & flowers

Actions:  aromatic, nerve tonic, aphrodisiac, antidepressant, carminative, reproductive tonic, diuretic

Uses:  Traditionally used for stimulating sexual appetite, treating erectile dysfunction & enhancing orgasm in both sexes. Strengthens the central nervous system & eases the emotional stress, damiana may helpful for mild depressive or anxious states. Also helpful in treating irrational fears. Alkaloids could have a testosterone-like action. As a carminative, it eases colic, dyspesia, & upset stomach.

Indications: impotence, low libido, poor digestion, cough, melancholy and sadness, weak nerves in the reproductive organs, sexual debility due to nervous exhaustion, incontinence, chronic prostatic discharge

Preparations: as a tea, use 1 tsp damiana with ½ tsp spearmint and ½ tsp rose petals for an invigorating yet calming nerve tonic. Often used in smoking mixtures. It also makes an incredible liqueur!!!

Cautions: Damiana may interfere with the absorption of iron. Avoid large doses during pregnancy.

Dose: Tea: use 1 tsp. per cup of water and drink 3 cups a day. Tincture: 10-30 drops 1-4 x a day.
*These statements have not been approved by the FDA. The information contained here is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.

Yellow Dock

(Rumex crispus)

Tastes/Energetics: bitter, sour, astringent, cool, dry

Parts Used: primarily the root, but leaves can be used externally on skin irritations

Actions: bitter tonic, alterative (blood-purifier), mild laxative

Uses: A compress soothes skin eruptions & infections. It is especially soothing to nettle stings and poison ivy rashes. A decoction can be useful for treating diarrhea. Conversely, small amounts of yellow dock infusion or tincture can relieve constipation. It is a gentle, safe laxative that strengthens the colon. Yellow Dock helps to liberate iron stored in the liver and is often used in blood-building formulas such as our blood-building syrup. As an alterative/blood-purifier, yellow dock supports the body’s detoxification processes, making it useful in cases of acne, allergies and cancer when signs of “bad blood” or toxic blood are present. It is traditionally used as a spring tonic to rid the body of the excess baggage of winter, especially if you had an extra merry holiday season!

Recipe for Iron-Rich Syrup:

  • 8 Tbsp. dried yellow dock root
  • 4 tbsp. dried nettle leaf
  • 4 tsp. orange peel
  • 4 tsp. fennel seed
  • 5 cups filtered water
  1. Add herbs and water to pot.  Mark the water level and simmer until liquid is reduced by ½.
  2. Strain the herb material, reserving the liquid.
  3. For each cup of liquid that you have remaining, add 1/4 cup honey & 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses.
  4. Use funnel to pour syrup into clean bottles. Label and refrigerate. Keep up to 3 months.


(Passiflora incarnata)

This month we are featuring Passionflower, a beautiful and supportive nervine. Stop in and try some of our locally grown passionflower from Sacred Roots Herbal Sanctuary.

Part Used: Dried leaves & stems

Tastes/Energetics: bitter, sour, cooling

Actions: nervine, anxiolytic, sedative, hypnotic, antispasmodic, anodyne

Uses: Passionflower calms the nervous system, improves mood and relieves anxiety. Passionflower is one of our favorite herbs for supporting sleep. As a sedative and hypnotic, it helps with the transition into sleep. It also quiets a racing mind and helps to break circular and repetative thought patterns that may be keeping you up at night. Its ability to tone down mental chatter makes it an ally for those who are incessant thinkers and chronic worriers. As an antispasmodic, passionflower is useful in any condition of muscle or nervous contraction or over-stimulation. It has been used, for example, in Parkinson’s disease as well as menstrual cramps, seizures, hysteria and nervous twitching. It can also calm nerve pain, such as the pain that accompanies shingles.

Contraindications: do not use concurrently with pharmaceutical sedatives.

Folklore: Passionflower’s unique floral arrangement inspired early Christian missionaries to appropriate its distinctive morphology as a symbol of Christ’s crucifixion. The 3 pistils represent the holy trinity, while the 12 petals represent the disciples. Passionflower’s corona resembles purple and white striped threads, which emerge in a beautiful crimped pattern. This visual conjures the feeling of a frayed and excited nervous system and serves as a reminder of its ability to calm & center our scattered & frazzled nerves.

Don’t forget that winter is the season for rest, and we should all be cutting back on our projects and surrendering to sweet slumber. Think of passionflower to help you align with the calling of the season.